Discuss these issues face-to-face: Challenging Privilege

Posted by Danny Pforte

People say that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." But words are weapons, and they can hurt more than sticks and stones, depending on how they are used. Many students have used harsh language to disagree with my opinions and have done so anonymously.

I want to use this article to further push my beliefs until naysayers decide to use the resources available to discuss these issues in person, rather than disagreeing anonymously – or even worse – threatening me for my beliefs.

First, whether we'd like to admit it or not, inequality is a reality. The practices of neoliberalism (i.e. the privatization of everything and a prioritization of individual over collective good) has nearly eliminated social mobility and turned our nation into one of privilege. The underclass and working class in this country are struggling to survive while growing in number. Wealth and power remain in the hands of a small minority. This is a grim reality that will only worsen because of the ideologies that blind us to differences in race, class and gender that are socially constructed to divide us.

No matter if it is race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age or a combination of these, aspects of identity, inequality and hierarchy exist within and between these groups. Access to power in this country is reserved for privileged groups, and that is true across the board. Often, experiences with oppression differ when various identities intersect.

White, able-bodied, upper class males are the creators of our current system. Their policies, institutions and ideologies are purposely created to subordinate certain groups of people. If one studies the political and social climate of our country, one would realize that there is a war against the working class, women andpeople of color, as well as other subordinate identities in this country. Being a combination of these socially constructed categories leads to disaster, because our country's institutions have systematically restricted resources needed by individuals within these categories to gain voices and to gain power.

I will reiterate that the Skidmore community is no different. The majority of the Skidmore population is white and upper class. Most are able-bodied, in that physical or mental disabilities are not an issue. And yes, the campus is also overwhelmingly heterosexual. The institution and many students do not understand groups who do not fit into the Skidmore norm. This lack of understanding rarely comes in the form of blatant acts of intolerance. Usually misunderstanding takes the form of avoidance and silence.

When my friend told me to check out the most recent comment on my article from two weeks ago, I did not expect to read this:

"Danny…although this privilege is not genetic, I have a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you stop writing these articles now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will ‘dialogue' you."

I was taken back by this harsh defensiveness toward my views. This infuriated response to my writing is nothing new, but here it transformed from mere comments to a threat. It has given me reason to fear for my safety in a community I call my own. I have grown uncomfortable walking by myself at night on this dark campus.

And why must I feel this way? The main reason is because I challenge the society we live in as unjust, and place accountability on those who are the privileged creators of the systems within it. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Robert F. Kennedy, among others, found out the hard way what happens when an individual challenges the status quo of our great nation. If you could ask them, they would probably agree, to put it simply, that you end up shot, thrown in jail or both.

I am uncomfortable on this campus, and I know others who have not only expressed their discomfort to me, but to the campus community as well. When I say that equality is a myth in this country and a myth on this campus, I mean it. I do not have to prove this like a detective because in fact, the detective work has been done already whether you want observational proof or proof in numbers.

This reality is enough for me to say that I will not stop writing these articles and pursuing work that leads to a change in society for the greater good. You can threaten me anonymously or otherwise, or even take the final step of following through with your threat. Or, you could join me. If you want my opinion, I like the second choice better.

My feelings toward this campus and this nation can be summed up by Canadian hip-hop artist Shad in a lyric from his song called "Call Waiting": "World full of pain got us waiting on a miracle, waiting on the world to change, when we should wait on the world like a waiter, serve the world man this world is strange, bizarro, lovers of tomorrow to break under the weight of the wonder and the sorrow." Well said.

Danny is a sophomore who is inspired by the need for change.

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